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California’s New Assembly Speaker Takes Oath

Photo credit: Rich Pedroncelli, AP

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon of Lakewood, center, receives a standing ovation after his election as the next Assembly speaker Jan. 11, 2016.

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon was sworn in as speaker in Sacramento Monday and outlined three of his legislative priorities, poverty, legislative oversight and voter engagement.

Rendon, D-Paramount, following his swearing-in by outgoing Speaker Toni Atkins, also shared his and his wife's life stories, describing how they were affected by the generosity of California.

"Annie and I benefited from California," he said.

"We benefited from its public housing projects and low-income home loan programs. We benefited from its food stamps and free meal programs. We benefited from this state's English-as-a-second-language and diversity programs... We benefited from the generosity of a state that promised to never turn its back on us -- and it never did," he said.

Rendon, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2012, was selected in September by his fellow Democrats to be speaker and elected as the 70th speaker on Jan. 11.

San Diego Democrat Toni Atkins held the speaker's gavel for two years. She became speaker in May 2014, the first San Diegan and first lesbian to hold the leadership post.

After thanking her colleagues, staffers and spouse Jennifer LeSar, Atkins called Rendon "a true leader."

"I couldn't be more pleased to leave the Assembly in such capable hands," Atkins said.

Because of a change to the state's term limits law allowing legislators to serve in the same house for 12 years -- the previous term limit for the Assembly was six years -- Rendon can serve as speaker until 2024. If he remains speaker that long, he would have the longest tenure since Willie Brown's record 14 1/2 years, ending in 1995.

Rendon said his goals as speaker include reducing the high rate of poverty among the state's children.

"Almost 2 1/2 million kids in the greatest state in the most powerful nation on this planet are living in poverty right now," Rendon said. "That's unacceptable. We need to make investments and provide opportunities that lift California families out of poverty -- and give all our children a better chance."

He also called for greater accountability in Sacramento and stepped-up oversight of state departments, and of the Legislature itself.

Rendon said he wants to bolster public participation in the state's governance by increasing voter turnout and fighting to preserve people's right to vote.

"We also have to step up and give people something to vote for, real actions that make real differences in real lives," he said.

Rendon, who turned 48 on Friday, was born in Silver Lake and raised in Montebello, Whittier and northern Orange County, graduating from California High School in Whittier. He attended Cerritos College and received bachelor's and master's degrees from California State Fullerton and a doctorate from UC Riverside.

Before being elected to the Assembly, Rendon was interim executive director of the California League of Conservation Voters; executive director of Plaza de la Raza Child Development Services Inc., which provides comprehensive child development and social and medical services to more than 2,300 children and families through the organization's 35 child development centers throughout Los Angeles County.

Rendon was also an adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at Cal State Fullerton.

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